Knitting and purling, which we cover in Chapter 4, open the door to all sorts of patterns that just involve alternating between knit and purl stitches. But as a beginning knitter, you only really need to know two: the garter stitch, which you create simply by knitting (or purling) every row, and the stockinette stitch, which you create by alternating a knit row with a purl row. Another stitch all knitters should have in their repertoire is the seed stitch. Although a little more complicated than the garter and stockinette stitches, it creates an interesting texture and is included in many patterns.
When knitting a stitch, the loose tail of yarn is in back of your work. When purling a stitch, the yarn is in front of your work. As you switch back and forth within a row, you need to move your yarn to the front or to the back as appropriate. Unfortunately for novice knitters who often forget to move the yarn accordingly, instructions don't explicitly tell you to bring your yarn to the front or back of your work. They assume that you know where the yarn should be when you're about to knit or purl a stitch. As you practice the patterns that combine both knit and purl stitches, make sure your yarn is in the proper position for each stitch before you start it, and refer to Chapter 4 for a quick review if necessary.
Knits and purls have a quirky but predictable relationship to each other. When lined up horizontally, the purled rows stand out from the knitted rows. Arranged in vertical patterns, like ribbing, the purl stitches recede, and the knit stitches come forward, creating an elastic fabric. When worked in a balanced manner (meaning the same number of knits and purls appear on each side of the fabric), as in seed stitch and its variations, the fabric is stable — it lies flat and doesn't have the tendency to roll in on the edges. These qualities make seed and moss stitches, as well as garter stitch, good choices for borders that need to lie flat and not pull in as ribbed borders do.
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